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  • from America and Other Poems
  • Ayukawa Nobuo (bio)
    Translated by Leza Lowitz (bio) and Shogo Oketani (bio)

lonely double

Somewhere in the distance,the evening sun has been extinguished—more darkness than I can bear.It weighs down my armslike your body.

Turn off the light, you said.I try to cover your mouth with my hand,but its blackness scares me.Your body, more than I can hold,weighs down my chest.

It's the midnight of the world.Under the moonlight that streams in from the window,you close your eyes tightly, pretending to be dead.In sleep, where I'm not with you,you murmur a secret:   I'm alone, I'm alonewhere I amble about a roomwearing a single slipper…   (Is my heart that generous?)

Turn on the light, you said.But I just sit quietly,a vast loneliness before me.If only I were the morning star,if only I had the clear eyes of a martyr.

Just as I don't believe in you, you don't,even try to believe in me.We just happen to look at each other's pale faces [End Page 69] wearing innocent smilesthat have been theresince long before we were born.


a story about heaven

He stood with hunched shouldersunder the freezing November night sky.On an empty platformwhere only a few human forms were visibleone pale girl said to another:I heard there used to be a place somewhere,a radiant place called heaven.

One small star shonein the frozen November night sky.Like this girl, he had somewheredark and cold to return to.

I heard that there used to be a beautiful gardenThe girl's memory seemed to stopbut continued on again as if passingthrough a small town.The neon signs were extinguishedfrom the freezing November night sky.The thin knife blade of a cold windblew, cutting the city's rough skin.

At twelve-ten, the eyes of the clock's handsstared into the heart's darkness—There's the stiff face of a woman whowaits for him, staring into cold soup,there's the stiff bed made of cheap wood.

I heard a man called God used to live there.No one knows what happened next…Her words broke off completely.Two girls, afraid of unseen happiness,held the shadows of their wings togetherunder the frozen November night sky.The tracks echo where the last train passes through,reverberating forever in that far-off country.(1953) [End Page 70]

soldiers of god

It's easier to revive a dead soldierthan to encounterthe Resurrection of Christin a gold-rimmed book.Countless soldiers died any number of timesand came back to life any number of times.

            (As long as sacred words                        and mysterious rewards never to be given                                    continue to exist…)

Soldiers who die any number of times,and come back to life any number of timeswill line up for a few centurieson continents and oceansas they always have.

          (Rewards never given                    are an infinite essence.)

One night, in May 1944,I was with a soldier as he died.He lay in a wooden bunk,enduring a high fever,clinging to life.

Memory's pale fire engulfed him,as he wept endlessly for his mother, sister, and lover.The border between us couldn't be crossed.I could see death crouching intentlybehind the dimness of an ever-lit lamp.

Cursing the war, he left this world.In a room on a hospital ship,crossing the East China Sea at night,he left forever,refusing any reward from God.

          (Oh, humanity!                    This beautiful soldier                              will never come back to life!) [End Page 71]

Somewhere in a far-off country,his noble death is shut insidea gold-rimmed book.On it are laid the quiet voice of prayerand a kind woman's hands


dreaming of the mountain

These mountains of my homelandare the beginning and end of nature—they are the only place I can return.My father was born in a mountain village,my mother was...